AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

Berhalter speaks on USMNT roster, Bradley’s chance, Pulisic’s problems

Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) U.S. captain Michael Bradley has an immediate chance to show new coach Gregg Berhalter he deserves to be considered for the next World Cup cycle.

The 31-year-old midfielder was the oldest player and among just four veterans selected for a 27-man roster that will attend Berhalter’s first training camp starting Jan. 6.

[ MORE: Berhalter names first USMNT squad ]

“I truly believe that and this is an opportunity for Michael to show his value to the group,” Berhalter said during a conference call Thursday. “So we’re excited to see him and how he works through this training camp and meeting the team and also contributing to what we’re trying to do on the field.”

Bradley has 142 international appearances but like most veterans was dropped after the October 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances. He returned in October following a one-year absence along with 34-year-old goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Guzan was omitted so he can train under a new club coach with Atlanta, which opens in February with the CONCACAF Champions League. Berhalter left off 29-year-old forward Jozy Altidore and 28-year-old midfielder Darlington Nagbe, both recovering from injuries. Berhalter said Altidore will come to camp for a day or two to “see the environment.”

The first U.S. coach who played for the Americans in the World Cup, Berhalter was hired Dec. 2 from the Columbus Crew to succeed Dave Sarachan, the interim coach for 13 months. Berhalter’s first matches are exhibitions against Panama on Jan. 27 at Glendale, Arizona, and against Costa Rica on Feb. 2 at San Jose, California. The team’s first competitive match in 20 months is June 18 at St. Paul, Minnesota, where the Americans open the defense of their CONCACAF Gold Cup title.

Sarachan gave debuts to 23 players, with the Americans winning three matches, lost five and tied four. Berhalter chose 12 players with no national team experience for the training camp, and seven others with five appearances or fewer. The group averages 24 years, 230 days and just 10 appearances.

Berhalter’s roster was chosen entirely from MLS, and he intends to add a central midfielder or winger. The only other players picked with more than a dozen appearances were forward Gyasi Zardes (40) and midfielders Kellyn Acosta (23) and Paul Arriola (17).

Players who could make debuts include are goalkeeper Tyler Miller; defenders Justin Glad, Nick Lima, Daniel Lovitz, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry and Auston Trusty; midfielders Corey Baird, Russell Canouse and Djordje Mihailovic; and forwards Jeremy Ebobisse and Christian Ramirez.

Berhalter has been in Europe meeting with the foreign-based portion of his player pool, a group not available to the national team until a pair of home exhibitions in March. The 45-year-old Berhalter, a member of the 2002 and ’06 World Cup rosters, said he is “trying to get a sense of the past but also the future, what this group is looking for.”

“I think we can use this opportunity in this training camp to just start the process and set the tone for what this group is going to be like,” he said, emphasizing three points: “building a culture within the team, instilling a style of play and then competing – competing in every single thing we do.”

Among the players he met with in Germany was 20-year-old star midfielder Christian Pulisic, who on Tuesday made first Bundesliga start for Borussia Dortmund since Sept. 29. Since returning in October following a three-week injury layoff, Pulisic has lost playing time to 18-year-old English midfielder Jadon Sancho.

“At the moment it hasn’t been going the best for him, and I think that’s when guys really can show their qualities, just how they endure through times like this,” Berhalter said. “And we talked about that.”

After training at Carson, California, each winter since 2004, the U.S. is moving its January camp 120 miles south to Chula Vista, near San Diego.

The roster:

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto), Sean Johnson (New York City), Tyler Miller (LA), Zack Steffen (Columbus)

Defenders: Reggie Cannon (Dallas), Greg Garza (Cincinnati), Justen Glad (Salt Lake), Nick Lima (San Jose), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia), Walker Zimmerman (LA)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado), Paul Arriola (D.C.), Corey Baird (Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto), Russell Canouse (D.C.), Marky Delgado (Toronto), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago), Cristian Roldan (Seattle), Wil Trapp (Columbus)

Forwards: Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland), Christian Ramirez (LA), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus).

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Xhaka slams “bulls***” criticism of Arsenal

Leave a comment

Arsenal have been targets for a lot of criticism recently.

Granit Xhaka is usually at the center of it.

The Gunners captain came out all guns blazing after they lost 1-0 at Sheffield United on Monday, as he addressed Patrice Evra‘s comments that Arsenal are “babies” and always will be due to their mentality.

“We have to stop about mental [strength] bulls*** like this. For me, it is the same whether you play home or away – you have to win and show big character and a good game and not to always find the same excuse,” Xhaka said. “A lot of people they speak too much. It is not the first time he has spoken something about us. I have a lot of respect for him as he was a great player but you have to be careful what you say. But it is not only him – a lot of people speak a lot of bulls*** about us. It’s always the same.

“For me it is strange as they were in the same situation as us, they were players as well. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not always good but every week they speak bulls*** like this every week. I tell you the honest truth, I’m not interested in what people say and speak. We have to speak in our group to improve things and work hard and not listen to these people.”

Xhaka and Arsenal have only lost twice this season, 3-1 at Liverpool and 1-0 at Sheffield United.

But aside from being fifth in the table and two points outside the top four, pressure is being placed on Unai Emery and his squad as they’ve narrowly beaten Bournemouth, Burnley, Newcastle and Aston Villa so far. Their performances aren’t instilling confidence in anyone that they can seriously push for a top four finish this season.

Has much changed under Emery in the past 15 months? Nope. This is pretty much the same Arsenal team making the same old mistakes and looking vulnerable away from home. Nothing new here. Sure, some new players have arrived, but David Luiz, Pepe and Sokratis have all been hit and miss so far and it has been left to Matteo Guendouzi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to try and rescue the Gunners each and every week.

Emery was supposed to change their style of play, develop them into a stronger team defensively and improve their chances of challenging for trophies once again.

None of that has happened, and it doesn’t look closer to happening. That is why the critics are circling around the Gunners. Monday was the perfect opportunity to prove their mentality had changed and they are a stronger, more balanced team under Emery. They aren’t and something drastic will have to change for them if Emery is going to win over the fans, and pundits, once again.

Ronaldo not ready for retirement: ‘Age is just a number’

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cristiano Ronaldo reassured Juventus supporters and his legions of fans worldwide that at 34 he’s not ready for retirement yet.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule

“Age is just a number. It does not mean that at 34, 35, 36 you are at the end of your career,” Ronaldo said at a news conference ahead of Juventus’ Champions League match against Lokomotiv Moscow on Tuesday. “I can show that with my performances, how I play, the way I play, the way I still feel good, sharp, thinking about the game, more mature. This makes the difference.”

In the second season of a four-year deal at Juventus, Ronaldo had sparked concern among his fans when he said in an interview published a few weeks ago that he was starting to enjoy seeing himself “outside of football, so who knows what will happen in the next year or two?”

Ronaldo recently scored his 700th goal as a professional while on international duty with Portugal and has been nominated for a record sixth Ballon d’Or award – which would break his tie of five with Lionel Messi.

But Ronaldo said he’s more interested in winning a treble with Juventus.

“We want to win Serie A, we want to win the Cup, the Champions League,” he said. “Juventus should think big. … We are going to try to win all the trophies, we know it will be difficult, especially the league and the Champions League, but I think it is possible. Everything is possible.

“In terms of individual, I have nothing to say as this is individual. It is not the most important thing,” Ronaldo added. “The most important is the collective awards. If you win the collective awards you have more chance to win the individual awards. … The Golden Ball is for me in second place.”

While retirement may not be on Ronaldo’s mind yet, family time is a big part of his life now.

“To win games, to score goals, to enjoy myself, to arrive home and see my kids happy and say, `Congratulations daddy for scoring a goal.’ That makes me happy,” he said. “This is my motivation to come to train, for the games, to entertain people and the fans with my passion.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Carragher apologizes to Evra over Suarez t-shirts

Leave a comment

Jamie Carragher has apologized to Patrice Evra after Liverpool wore t-shirts in support of Luis Suarez in 2011.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The day after Suarez was banned for eight games by the English Football Association, who found him guilty of racially abusing Evra, Liverpool’s players put on t-shirts with Suarez on the front and back during their warm up in a Premier League game against Wigan Athletic.

Carragher and Evra were both analysts for our partners at Sky Sports in the UK on Monday Night Football for the clash between Sheffield United and Arsenal, and discussed the current problems with racism in the game.

“There is no doubt we made a massive mistake; that was obvious,” Carragher said.

Liverpool’s former vice-captain asked Evra how he felt regarding the situation with Suarez, and the former Man United, Juventus and Monaco left back revealed his disgust at the way the situation was handled.

“When I saw it I was like, this is ridiculous. This is unbelievable,” Evra said. You put your own club in danger when you do those things. You always have to support your player because he is from your team but this was after the ban. If it was before and we were waiting for the sanction, I would understand. What message do you send to the world? Supporting someone being banned because he used some racist words.”

Click play on the video above for the full discussion between Carragher and Evra.

Italy women’s team awarded for ’emancipating’ female game

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) The Italy women’s national soccer team was awarded the Foreign Press Association’s Invictus award Monday for promoting and “emancipating” the female game in the country with its run to the World Cup quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video) ]

Head coach Milena Bertolini and forward Barbara Bonansea were given the award during a ceremony at the Rome-based association.

With soccer dominated by men in Italy and few opportunities for girls, Bertolini recounted how she had to dress up as a boy to play as a kid.

“Now things are changing, thanks to the Italian federation’s school programs,” Bertolini said.

Bertolini and Bonansea lamented that female players are still not considered professionals and therefore are not permitted to earn more than $33,500 per year by Italian law.

“It’s not about the money, it’s a question of rights,” said Bonansea, who also plays for Italian champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Referee officials explain VAR decision on Rashford goal ]

While Italy’s men’s team is a four-time World Cup champion, the women had not played in a World Cup for two decades and entered as a prohibitive underdog during its opening match against Australia in France in June. But the Azzurre came back from a goal down for a 2-1 win courtesy of Bonansea’s two scores , with her second coming in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

“That goal shaped our World Cup, both in terms of results and in terms of promoting women’s soccer in Italy,” Bertolini said. “The strong emotions on the field were transmitted to everyone who was watching. I still get goosebumps now just thinking about that goal.”

The Azzurre went on to win their group then beat China in the first knockout round before losing to eventual finalist the Netherlands.

In a country of 60 million people, a total of more than 20 million spectators watched Italy’s five matches on RAI state TV, setting audience records for women’s soccer game after game.

The Invictus award is dedicated to “promoting the positive effects of sports in terms of integration and emancipation by the vulnerable sections of society.”